The first account I made, Theophilus, was [a continuous report] about all the things that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day when He ascended to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given instruction to the apostles (special messengers) whom He had chosen. To these [men] He also showed Himself alive after His suffering [in Gethsemane and on the cross], by [a series of] many infallible proofs and unquestionable demonstrations, appearing to them over a period of forty days and talking to them about the things concerning the kingdom of God.
Acts 1:1-3 (AMP)
Like the first book (the Gospel of Luke) this one is dedicated to the same fellow Theophilos. Now Theophilos is a Greek word that means “friend of God”. There are not just a few scholars who therefore say that in fact while this is a real name in use at that time, that it also just as easily could be a general term referring to all of the new Believers in Christ (as friends of God).
Right away in verse 2 we see Luke’s focus on the work of God through the Holy Spirit, and we’ll find the use of this term Holy Spirit 39 more times in Acts. This means that of all the uses of the term Holy Spirit in the entire New Testament, the Book of Acts alone contains almost half of them.
In fact the second verse explains that Yeshua gave instructions through the auspices of the Holy Spirit to the 12 disciples He had originally chosen (11 really because Judas had committed suicide).
Thus Luke makes a strong connection not just with YHWH and the Holy Spirit, but also now with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So we see the great unity, the oneness of God expressed and understood by Luke.
Luke reminds his readers in verse 3 that after Yeshua arose from the rocky tomb that He presented Himself to many of His followers and left no doubt that it was He, and that He was real and alive, not an apparition or a ghost. We find record of this fact in numerous places in the NT, so here is but one example:
So the women left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell [the good news to] the disciples. And as they went, suddenly, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” And they went to Him and took hold of His feet [in homage] and worshiped Him [as the Messiah]. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell My brothers to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me [just as I promised].”
Matthew 28:8-10 (AMP)
Skip down to verse 16.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain, which Jesus had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted [that it was really He]. Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20 (AMP)
Then we get a piece of information in verse 3 of chapter 1 that we didn’t get in the Gospels: after His resurrection Yeshua stayed around for a period of 40 days communing with and instructing His disciples.
Why 40 days?
God instructed Moses on top of Mt. Sinai for 40 days, and now God (Yeshua) is instructing His disciples for 40 days. 40 is a Biblical number that symbolizes testing and/or transition.
And since we know that the Holy Spirit would arrive to dwell within humans on the 50th day after Passover, and we know that Yeshua arose on Bikkurim (Firstfruits) and remained on earth for 40 days, then depending on how one decides to count the days from Passover to Firstfruits (I say it is 3 days) that it seems probable that 1 week to the day after Christ ascended into Heaven, Shavuot (Feast of weeks, Pentecost) arrived and with it the Holy Spirit.
One week is 7 days and 7 is the ideal number and is symbolic of wholeness or divine completion. Makes sense that it would be exactly 7 days between Christ ascending and the Holy Spirit arriving; and it follows the Biblical pattern we saw in the Torah and in the Old Testament.
We get one other important piece of information: what was it that Christ mainly spent His time teaching His disciples about?
It was about the Kingdom of God. And by the way, at times we’ll see places in the NT that speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven; it is synonymous with the Kingdom of God. And yet as we’ll see in a couple more verses, there were aspects about the concept of the Kingdom of God that the disciples still couldn’t comprehend.
It was during that 40 day period at one of these post-resurrection gatherings that Yeshua instructed the 11 that they were not to leave Jerusalem but instead to wait for what the Father promised.
So obviously at this particular gathering they weren’t in Galilee; rather Jesus met with them in Jerusalem.
While being together and eating with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Of which,” He said, “you have heard Me speak. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized and empowered and united with the Holy Spirit, not long from now.”
Acts 1:4-5 (AMP)
Christ says something quite interesting that has more depth to it than meets the eye. He says that although His cousin John the Baptist baptized people in water, the disciples would be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Notice that with John, the baptizer was the human being, John. But Yeshua didn’t say that they would go out and baptize in the Holy Spirit instead of water, but rather they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
One can only imagine what this might have meant to them; I suspect it was puzzling. So this is where we’ll pause and talk about this because since these 11 disciples are all Jews, and since their cultural and religious context is second Temple Judaism, any talk among themselves about baptizing was within the framework of how Jews baptized and what that act meant to them.
First: the English word baptize comes from the Greek verb baptizeim, and it is a generic term that means to immerse. So whatever it is meant to symbolize, the action physically involves immersion of something, usually into a liquid.
And the purpose of being immersed is to take on the qualities of the liquid that person or object is being immersed into. The term was regularly used as it regards dying cloth; so a plain cloth is immersed into a vat of dye and it takes on the quality of that dye, which is to change the cloth to a certain color.
From the Jewish second Temple period perspective, whereby Judaism had become an amalgam of Traditions that overlapped and intermingled with Torah commandments regarding the God-ordained act of immersion, the purpose of immersion was generally to become ritually purified or cleansed. There were many ways that ritual purity could be lost, but immersion invariably was the way to regain that lost purity.
In fact, immersion to regain ritual purity was not only for humans but also for inanimate objects like cookware. The preferred place for immersion was at a Mikveh; a ritual bath that had steps down into a water reservoir, and usually separate steps back up. The water reservoir had to be deep enough that the entire body, head to toe, could be enveloped in water. But when a Mikveh was not available a river or a spring fed lake was acceptable.
Tom Bradford speaks about immersion as a change in status. When someone or something is not ritually pure it is not usable for God. When someone or something is ritually clean, it becomes usable for God. And so it was common, for a person or object to be ritually clean, then made ritually unclean, only to be made ritually clean again through immersion.
Now to be clear: the water used for immersion is itself only symbolic and has no magical quality to it. Rather by going into the water and immersing (baptizing), it signals that you (or the object) is willfully changing your status from one condition to another; from being someone who God is not able to use because you aren’t pure enough in God’s eyes, to someone God is able to use because you are now pure in God’s eyes.
As regards Believer’s baptism it is symbolic of laying down our own will and submitting to God’s. It is death and burial of our identity and allegiance to self, and thus having our status changed such that our new identity and allegiance is Messiah.
So whereas John, a physical human being, could only immerse a person into physical water as a show of symbolism, now through Christ, and without the aid of a human, God would immerse a person into His Holy Spirit and it wasn’t symbolic but real.
And what did one obtain with immersion into the Holy Spirit?
Power! Finally, Praise the Lord. Finally the power to hear God and to obey Him, to do His will in impossible circumstances. Power to go forth with the Good News and deliver it to others. And with Christ’s disciples at least, power to do miracles like their Master had done.
To stay on course let’s talk about Yeshua and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit descended upon Christ. He was the first to receive the Spirit that dwelled within. And yet, since Yeshua was God the Holy Spirit was as much a part Him as for His Father. There is only one Holy Spirit, not many.
Thus essentially the same spirit that was within Yeshua, He would share with His 11 disciplines and also with all who came to faith in Him. I think a good way to look at it is that Yeshua shared His Holy Spirit with His disciples as the means to empower them to do what He had done, and what He wanted them to do.
This was a first, right?
NO! God is a God of patterns; and all that we see happening in the NT, was first patterned in the Old Testament.
So Moses went out and spoke to the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered seventy men from among the elders of the people and stationed them around the Tent (tabernacle). Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took some of the Spirit who was upon Moses and put Him upon the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied [praising God and declaring His will], but they did not do it again.
But two men had remained in the camp; one named Eldad and the other named Medad. The Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the Tent), and they prophesied in the camp.
Numbers 11:24-26 (AMP)
How about that?
The precedent and pattern had already been set with the first mediator, Moses, whereby God’s spirit that rested upon him was SHARED with his “disciples”, the 70 elders.
And what did they do as a result?
They prophesied; meaning they spoke as God directed them. Two others who had stayed in the tent encampment also had the spirit rest upon them and they prophesied in the camp. But it was short lived.
Now we see what we’ve talked about time and again; Yeshua, the second and better Mediator, came to bring the Torah and Prophets to a whole new and higher level of fulfillment. With Yeshua as Mediator the Holy Spirit didn’t just rest upon worshippers, He indwelled. And the effect wasn’t short lived; it was lifelong.
When you and I and everyone who has trusted in Christ were anointed with the Holy Spirit, it was meant to be for a lifetime. We don’t need to occasionally redo it.
We’ll move on to verse 6 now, and into another awesome topic, but I don’t want to leave the matter of baptism before telling you this: yes it is symbolic. But Yeshua also commands it and so that makes it vitally necessary. It is not optional. And one of the purposes of baptism is to make a public profession to fellow Believers that you have decided to put down your crown, take up the cross, and join the community of Believers.
Will submerging under water change you?
No. Water can’t enter into your innermost parts; but the Holy Spirit can and will. By being obedient to God to follow Messiah’s command to immerse and by being willing to let others around you know of your change of status, you will be changed.
Since coming to Messiah, have you been immersed?
Have you perhaps left a faith or denomination that was well off the mark and you want to immerse in the truth of Yeshua, and the truth of the entire Word of God, and not merely in the image or fantasy of whatever you used to think Him to be?
Do you want to boldly tell the Father and your family and congregation that you now know that through faith in Messiah you have been grafted into the Covenants of Israel: the covenants that provide for a Jewish Savior to pay the price for your sins?
Do you want to declare that the Lord has made you prepared, full of power, and finally usable by God? Then be immersed (Talk to your Pastor about it).
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I have submitted to the command of God to be baptized in water, demonstrating my identification with Jesus’ death, burial and Resurrection.
He, in turn, has baptized me in the Holy Spirit.
I declare this declaration of faith in the name of Jesus Christ!